Thursday, November 16, 2006

Frenzied star-making, mud volcanoes and ‘After Contact, Then What?’

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. You may notice that this and future entries are shorter than usual; Career, family and book deal commitments have forced me to cut back some of my projects. Now, here’s today’s news:
g Stars - Frenzied star-making in the Milky Way Galaxy starting about 2400 million years ago had extraordinary effects on life on Earth. Harvests of bacteria in the sea soared and crashed in a succession of booms and busts, with an instability not seen before or since. According to new results published by Henrik Svensmark of the Danish National Space Center in the journal Astronomische Nachrichten, the variability in the productivity of life is closely linked to the cosmic rays, the atomic bullets that rain down on the Earth from exploded stars. They were most intense during a baby boom of stars, many of which blew up. See
g Abodes - Cold seeps are deep-sea environments, usually a few square meters in size, where fluid is released through slow diffusion from the sea floor. Mud volcanoes, which are active areas of fluid seepage, are other extreme environments discovered in the 1990s. These harsh conditions give rise to some of the most extreme and scientifically challenging environments for life to exist on the planet. See
g Life - When it comes to mating, wild animals make their own rules. From lionesses of East Africa that mate with many males before ovulating and committing their eggs, to male walruses that joust for several female partners, the animal kingdom is full of swingers. See
g Intelligence - Students, don't cringe, but new research suggests that the very act of taking a test is enough to enhance long-term memory. Furthermore, testing helps students remember not only what they studied for the test, but also related, non-tested concepts. See
g Imagining - Could the Pak of Larry Niven's Ringworld universe possibly evolve? They've got a homepage to discuss that and other questions about the intriguing fiction alien race. See
g Aftermath - Though an older Web posting, “After Contact, Then What?” ( shows how little we’ve thought about this